Bruce Peninsula Newspapers Rivalry

Bruce Peninsula newspapers rivalry between the Wiarton Echo and Owen Sound newspapers promoting their communities was often vitriolic and led to acrimony between the two communities.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

As the Grey Bruce region became more settled, rivalries developed between the various settlements in the area.

The goal of the citizens of the communities was to make their town or village the dominant port on Georgian Bay. 

This quest for economic and social importance often led to harsh words and hard feelings between the townspeople of the competing centres.

Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century the newspapers of Owen Sound and Wiarton provided excellent examples of this friction between those two aspiring Georgian Bay ports. 

During the last two decades of the nineteenth century Wiarton was probably second only to Owen Sound as a transshipment port servicing the Bruce Peninsula.

This subordinate position did not rest well with the Wiarton Echo and its readers. 

As a result, the Echo took every opportunity to extol the virtues of their town and to point out the shortcomings of Owen Sound.

One example occurred in the Wiarton Echo's October 31, 1879 edition:

"We are always being reminded by our Owen Sound friends that their harbour is a model one; the finest, in fact, on the continent, and that ours is a ‘medium harbour.’ We are sorry we cannot ECHO their opinion. Experience will not warrant it. Last week the Francis Smith, heavily loaded, called in there on her up trip, and was obliged to land her passengers at Boyd's old wharf, a mile and a half out of town, for fear of sticking in the mud if she went into the harbour. The wharf was in shocking condition and ladies who were obliged to land did so at considerable risk and were compelled to walk a long distance over stones and other impediments before they could reach the bus to take them into the town. A truly magnificent harbour, indeed, wharf and all, and we think the least they say in its favour and decry other better harbours the more it will become them." 

The Echo seemed to constantly criticize the condition of Owen Sound's harbour and promoted the idea that the Wiarton harbour was better. 

It decried the use of government money spent to upgrade Owen Sound's harbour. In its Feb. 13, 1880 edition, the Echo reported, "Owen Sound has sent a deputation to Ottawa on a begging expedition for their harbour." 

The editor of the Echo took every opportunity to criticize the use of government funds spent maintaining Owen Sound's harbour.

An example of this attitude can be seen on the front page of the Nov. 22, 1889 edition of the Echo

"The water was so low in Owen Sound harbour recently, that the C.P.R steamer Athabaska, grounded outside the outer light, and could not make her dock until she was lighted. It is a terrible waste of money to dredge Owen Sound harbour, because as much mud washes in each year as is dredged out.”

cpr athabaskaCPR Athabaska - Paul White Historic Postcard Collection

In 1903, the Echo reported that the Owen Sound Times stated that Wiarton was laid out 35 years ago and has been in the hands of the undertaker ever since.

The Echo responded by saying, “We sympathize with the undertaker, who in all probability, hailed from Owen Sound, Wiarton has proved one too many for him, as this town is still above the sod and VERY MUCH ALIVE today.”

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Owen Sound was firmly entrenched as a major port on Georgian Bay and for various reasons Wiarton’s port facility decreased in importance rapidly. Therefore as Wiarton’s hopes to replace Owen Sound as the major commercial port for the region decreased so to did the vitriolic reports by the newspapers.

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